Lot 2
  • 2

Albert Edelfelt

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • Albert Edelfelt
  • La laitière
  • signed and dated A. Edelfelt / 89 lower centre
  • oil on canvas
  • 73.5 by 60.5cm., 29 by 24in.


Acquired by the grandfather of the present owners in the first half of the twentieth century; thence by descent


Helsinki, Ateneum, Finnish Artists' Exhibition, 1892, no. 57


Päivälehti, 28 October 1892
Finland, 16 November 1892
Bertel Hintze, Albert Edelfelt, Helsinki, 1942-44, vol. II, pp. 19-22, illustrated; vol. III: catalogue raisonné, no. 505, catalogued (as Mjölkflickan (Skärgårdsflicka)) & the study for the present work illustrated on the cover
Albert Edelfelt, 1854-1905, exh. cat., Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki, 2005, illustrated, p. 228, cited (Swedish version); illustrated (English version)


The following condition report has been prepared by Hamish Dewar Ltd., 13 and 14 Mason's Yard, St James', London, SW1Y 6BU:UNCONDITIONAL AND WITHOUT PREJUDICEStructural ConditionThe canvas is unlined and is securely attached to the artist's original keyed wooden stretcher. This is providing an even and stable structural support. There are slightly raised stretcher-bar lines corresponding to each of the stretcher members. These are entirely stable.Paint surfaceThe paint surface has an even and sympathetic varnish layer. There are scattered fine lines of craquelure including within the sky. These are entirely stable. Inspection under ultra-violet light shows a few tiny spots of retouching on the figure's left hand, two very small spots within her hair, a small spot within the water in the upper right quadrant ofthe composition, and a few very small spots of retouching on the extreme edges of the composition. It should be noted these retouchings are all of minimal size and have been very carefully applied.SummaryThe painting would therefore appear to be in very good and stable condition.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1889, La laitière is breathtaking in its atmospheric evocation of archipelago life in Haiko during the Nordic summer. Situated east of Helsinki near Porvoo, this was Edelfelt’s home region where he regularly returned for inspiration, keeping a summer house there long after his move to Paris. Apparently unseen in public since the Helsinki exhibition in 1892, the present work was until now known only from a black-and-white photograph taken by Daniel Nyblin at that time.

The closely cropped composition, with its marked separation between the figure in the foreground and, in the distance, the activity of the busy port shrouded in mist, evokes the plein-air painting of Edelfelt’s late friend Jules Bastien-Lepage, whose distinctive style influenced a generation of artists across Europe. Yet by this stage in his career Edelfelt increasingly felt constrained by Bastien-Lepage’s brand of academic realism, and sought a more fluid and Impressionistic technique. In its beautiful depiction of the water, the present work suggests the influence of Anders Zorn, and particularly Zorn’s large watercolour Lapping Waves of 1887 (fig. 1). Zorn and Edelfelt had become friends upon the latter’s move to Paris in 1888, and Edelfelt came to admire the Swedish artist more than any other.

Edelfelt was the first Finnish artist to gain international renown in his own lifetime. Having honed his skills as a painter of historical subjects first at the Art Society in Helsinki and later in Antwerp, the artist moved to Paris in 1874. La laitière was painted at a key period of the artist's career, as Edelfelt received the Légion d’Honneur following the triumphant reception of his famous portrait of Louis Pasteur at the Paris Salon of 1886 (Musée d’Orsay), and was awarded a médaille d’honneur at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1889 along with other prominent artists including John Singer Sargent, Giovanni Boldini, and Peder Severin Krøyer. As the foremost representative of the ‘new painting’ in Finland, in the same year Edelfelt found himself in a bitter dispute with his older compatriots, led by Adolf von Becker, regarding the direction of Finnish art. Seeking respite in his native Haiko, Edelfelt painted some of the freest and most memorable works of his career, including La laitière and also Kaukola Ridge at Sunset (Ateneum, Helsinki).